Terry here, answering our question on craft: Do you think about craft while you are writing? (how to construct good characters, settings, plot) Or do you just let her rip and worry about that “later?”
I’m afraid I’m always zeroed in one thing when I’m writing—getting the characters through their ordeal and to the end. I have great aspirations for being a “crafty” writer, but when I sit down to do a first draft, all those wonderful things I’ve learned in workshops, books about craft, and classes, leave my head and I plunge forward.
But a lot of craft has to be decided or at least considered before you start writing:
--Where will the book be set? Not just the general area, but specific places where action will take place? What kind of climate will the characters face? What kind of terrain will it take place in? Are the characters familiar or unfamiliar with the surroundings?
--Whose point of view will you be in? Will it be one person or multiples points of view? And What tense? First, second (oh so rare) or third? And will it be close or loose third? Will there be very personal observations by the characters, or will there be an authorial overview of things. This can certainly change as you move into the story, but you need to have some idea before you begin.
--When will the book be set? Is it historical? Current? Is there a reason you are setting the story in a particular time? This seems to be an especially pertinent question with Covid 19 such a huge presence in our lives. If you choose present, will you include the strictures of quarantine, lockdown, masking? Or will you pretend it doesn’t exist?
--Do you have a particular milieu for your book? Are you going to take your readers to the world of horse-racing, or ceramics, or gardening, or cooking, or any one of dozens of activities that might be a good backdrop for your action? Do you need to do research? Have you done it? Or do you, as I often do, put in placeholders for the things you need to research?
--Do you have a theme? A message you want to convey to your readers, or to explore with your readers? Are you going to address greed, or anger, or corruption, or lying. Or are you going to talk about kindness, randomness, ambition, or disappointment? This often develops as your story develops, but it sometimes helps to know before you begin what your general exploration will be about.
--Do you know who your protagonist is? Your antagonist? Who their cronies are? What they bring into the story before you begin?
There are many, many craft questions that arise as you write the book. How much description is too much? Do you write all of the details that come into your mind and then pare down in the editing phase? Or do you ignore it and add it later? How do you end a chapter on a “hook?” Do you try to do it as you’re writing, or do you worry about it later? How about the nuances of language and conversation? Do you make sure that each character has a distinct way to talking, or do you worry about that when you edit? What about pacing? Do you worry about how fast or slow the action is going as you write, or do you gallop forward? Do you make a point to add humor, or do just let it come where it may? Do you make sure you have enough conflict? Do you make sure each of your characters “wants something” on every page, or do you figure you’ll put that in later?
There are so many considerations that it’s impossible to consider all of them in the middle of writing, but at least I try to start with some basics in mind.
Stay safe, everyone….and keep writing!